Writer: Nick Spencer
Pencilers: Leinil Francis Yu & Rod Reis
Inkers: Gerry Alanguilan & Joshua Cassara
Colorist: Sunny Cho & Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
In a single word Secret Empire #4 was cathartic. For an event I was less then thrilled with, based mostly on the premise and treatment of Captain America AKA Hydra Cap AKA Stevil, I found myself completely engaged with Secret Empire #4. This might not have been an event I wanted but this was an issue I needed.
Secret Empire #4 finally builds to our first conflict between the Avengers Underground and the Hydra Avengers. But before we reach that point, which is the heart of the issue we spend some more time with the alternative Steve Rogers, whose location and destination are still unknown but he gains two allies in the form of his two longest serving partners, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, but what will become of this is still a closely guarded secret but the scene is beautifully drawn by Rod Reis. The two other subplots brewing are the hunt for the Black Widow as Hydra Cap sends his most loyal Punisher on the trail to stop her at with extreme prejudice. The issue also delves more into the Black Widow and her plan to strike at the heart of the Hydra Empire and how far she is willing to go, much to the unease of the Champions. These two plots will no doubt merge over the next few issues, which I personally can’t wait to see.
But the majority of Secret Empire #4 is the long simmering conflict amongst the different iterations of the Avengers, bot the Underground and those loyal to Hydra Cap. But it feels more like a conflict that has been brewing since that awful slap of the Wasp by Yellow Jacket all the way back in the Avengers #213, an image that shocked me when I read it off the stands in 1981 and has unfortunately marred Hank Pym ever since. The Avengers have always felt like family, especially the original team but the friction amongst them has been present for years and Nick Spencer lays a lot of the discord on the table at what can only be described as the most surreal and dysfunctional family dinner I’ve seen in some time. While both teams are hunting a Cosmic Cube fragment they come into conflict with Hank Pym, who if you are current with Uncanny Avengers (which you should be) has merged with Ultron and has set up shop in Alaska. Over the course of the issue many past events and lingering frictions are brought up and the airing of the grievances hangs heavy in the air. As a long time reader of the Avengers and a Marvel fan who has followed these heroes for decades it was, as I stated earlier, cathartic to see these heroes air their issues that have been present since my own childhood thirty plus years ago. There are some wonderful scenes and great dialogue that shows Nick Spencer has a nice grasp of his Marvel history and an excellent handle on these classic characters. I don’t know how Secret Empire is going to lead to Legacy or Generations but I am more interested now in that concept then I was prior to reading Secret Empire #4.
Marvel staple Leinil Francis Yu steps into the artist rotation for this issue, and he does a solid job but after Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork for the past two issues it felt a little stale. Yu has drawn so many major Marvel stories and events at this point in his career it doesn’t feel special like it once did and although I appreciate that Secret Empire is shipping on time I’m not a fan of the art by committee for this event. I would have preferred Andrea Sorrentino to do the entire event but having Steve McNiven, Rod Reis, and Yu aboard isn’t the worse thing thing to ever happen to a comic event.
Verdict: It’s not for everyone but those of you who are into the event so far and/or fans of Nick Spencer then Secret Empire #4 is a Buy. The story is building. The pacing is excellent as there are some big reveals in this issue but even more mystery. I may not like the premise but I’m finding myself putting more and more faith in Nick Spencer and I don’t think he will disappoint.